UCAS Student Guide 2012 / 2013. V. Kennedy 2011.
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CONTENTSWhat is UCAS? (p3)Seven Good Reasons to go to University (p4)Choosing a Course (p5-8)To Help You Make Your Choice (p9-11)Choosing a University (p12)Points to Remember When Researching Universities (p13)Jargon Busting (p14-17)How to Get on the Course You Have Decided On (p18)UCAS Tariff Point System (p19)Registering for UCAS APPLY (p20)Completing Your Application Form (p21-24)Writing a Personal Statement (p25-28)Top Tips from Admission Officers (p29)What Happens Next? (p30-31)IMPORTANT DATES (p32)
What is UCAS?The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service is the organisation responsible for managingapplications to higher education courses in the UK. Not only do they process more than twomillion applications for full-time undergraduate courses every year, but they help you to find theright course for you.To make things run as smoothly as possible they provide everything you need online: frommaking your application through to tracking your offers. You can search for courses and followlinks to individual university and college websites, read information about finance, order aUCAS card and much more besides. www.ucas.comA successful UCAS application is best achieved when student, school and home are allactively involved:Step 1 – Planning, research, visitsStep 2 – Choosing courses: deciding what and whereStep 3 – Applying online through UCAS.comStep 4 – Offers: check progress using Track at UCAS.comStep 5 – ResultsStep 6 – Confirmation of placement, or ClearingStep 7 – Starting University or College
Seven good reasons to go to university_ Graduate earnings are still greater than those of non-graduates, so choosing to do a degree is an investment worth making_ Graduates are 50% more likely to get a job and are more likely to receive training andpromotion._ Graduate employees are more likely to experience ‘job satisfaction’ (challenging jobs withresponsibility and inherent rewards)._ A relevant degree is required for entry to some professions i.e. architecture, law,teaching, accountancy, medicine._ A university education will develop you intellectually and personally leading to an enhancedquality of adult life._ It is great fun! – a chance to spend three years with people the same age from a widevariety of cultures and backgrounds.It is probably the biggest decision of your life so far - get it wrong and you could end uplosing money if you drop out, or spending three very unhappy years in education. You might failto gain access to the occupation you had hoped for and have to retrain.
CHOOSING A COURSEBecoming a student in higher education (HE) is a big step, and there are important questionsyou will need to consider. There are over 50,000 higher education courses listed in the UCAS database, offered at over 300 universities and colleges. There are also a significant number of Further Education Colleges which offer higher education courses. With so many options available, choosing a course can be a difficult decision.What are you looking for?Is it the particular subject or subject combination; think about what you enjoy and can do well, both at school and outside.Single honours - you study one main subject, usually with the option of taking up to 25% ofyour degree in another subject.Joint honours - where you study two subjects on a 50:50 basis.Major/minor honours - Occasionally you can do a major/minor honours degree where themajority of your study is in one subject and the minority in another, for example, Accounting &Finance with Computing.
Part-time study - you can take a full-time degree programme on a half-time basis, or do anhonours degree by working your way through interim awards.Honours degrees with a foundation year. If, for whatever reason, you do not haveappropriate qualifications for direct entry, some science honours degrees offer a foundationyear.Foundation degrees are interim higher education awards, which start at a point beforehonours degree entry and end at a level significantly below an honours degree. There areusually good progression routes on to a related honours degree or a specific top-up honoursdegree.Higher National Diplomas are interim higher education awards, which should be for honoursdegree entry and end at a level significantly below an honours degree.Top-up honours degrees are one year programmes designed to allow progression fromfoundation degrees or HNDs to bachelor honours degree level.
_ Are you able to diversify and acquire new skills by studying topics outside your main
_ Taking a language normally includes a year of studying or working abroad
_ Does a course include a sandwich year of working in industry?
_ Science-based subjects can include full-day practical laboratory sessions
_ What is the proportion of private study and reading to lectures and tutorials?
Is it the type of university or its location?
For example: a specialist institution for the creative arts, or somewhere renowned for research
and development, or a tradition of academia. Traditional or modern, city centre or rural town,
large campus or small college, within a 3 hour drive of home or much further afield. Does it
have a wide and thriving extra curricular program with opportunities to continue your favourite
hobbies, or introduce you to new ones.
Should you put your career choice first?Before you apply for a particular course, think about the kind of career you would like it to leadto. Some professions require a specific degree i.e. if you want to be a scientist, lawyer, doctoror vet.www.aimhigher.ac.uk is a website that can help you with planning and decisions to put you onthe right path for your future. If you want to find out more about different kinds of jobs you cancompare careers online. Then, to find out what qualifications and training are required in eachcase, you can profile a profession. What you have studied so far will also influence your choice:you can match qualifications to degree types. Finally, you can also identify suitable careeroptions for a particular qualification – or find out what qualifications you need for a particularcareer.Futurewise organise ‘Careers Experience Events, Insight Visits and gap and volunteeringshows’. See their website for details www.myfuturewise.org.uk
To help you make your choiceDiscuss your options with lots of different people - friends, family, tutors, subject teachers,careers advisers, universities.You can access loads of information to help you decide. An excellent starting point is theUCAS website – use the course database to search for particular subjects and courses.Read University and department prospectuses. Search via the Web and examinethe official (and unofficial student) sites.Look at independent university guides such as Virgin Alternative Guide, Times Guide, PushGuide, Heap’s ‘Degree Course Offers’ and ‘Choosing Your Degree Course and University’.League tables help you investigate which universities are best for particular courses:
http://education.guardian.co.ukwww.timesonline.co.uk/educationandwww.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.ukRelevant statistics about your course/university are available at www.unistats.comGo to Open Days and visit universities to get an idea of what courses involve.
So how do you make the decision?RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCHCourses – where to find information_ The UCAS website – www.ucas.comThe site has lists of courses offered by all the universities and colleges in the UCAS system. You can search for courses by subject or interest, and discover what is on offer and where: single or joint honours (i.e. acombination of subjects), length of course, course code, qualification etc. You can refine searches by location and follow links to the providers’ website._ University Open Days. Heads of Faculties and departmental staff will be armed with information for you and are usually available to talk to. Visits are also essential to get a feel for the university, to view the campus and accommodation and find out what else ison offer for students in the way of clubs, societies, Students Union facilities, pastoral and health care etc. Visit www.opendays.comfor dates of Open Days.
_ The Push Guide – www.push.co.uk. This website gives an independent description ofthe facilities and campuses at different universities. It is very good for giving you a feelfor what a place is like._ The Guardian league tables – www.educationguardian.co.uk.Use to search league tables to compare UK universities and subjects. Also articles on current affairs ineducation._ www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk– includes university league and subject tablesin association with The Independent._ www.timesonline.co.uk/education_ Futurewise - www.myfuturewise.org.uk . Careers courses and events for students aged16+.
Choosing a UniversityBy deciding on a course you will have started to narrow down the choices available. However,there may be many universities or colleges that offer a course that appeals to you, especially ifyou are considering a common subject such as English or History. Most students have some idea of the location they want to be in – whether it’s in the south of England, by the sea, miles away from or close to home. Many people opt for somewhere that is far enough away from their families to be independent but not too far to get home in a crisis, usually two or three hours drive away. When you’ve found five to ten universities that appeal toyou, you will need to find out more about them.How do I find out about universities?University websites and prospectuses are a good place to start finding out more, but by far thebest way to get a feel for a university is to visit. Before you fill in your UCAS form, visit as many universities as you can. Look out for open days, campus tours, taster sessions, summer courses and master classes. This will give you a taste of what the university is really like andcurrent students are often on hand to answer your questions. Once you receive an offer from a university you may also be invited to an interview or visit day. It’s important to visit your most likely choices before making a decision, particularly your firm and insurance choices.Visit www.opendays.com for dates of Open Days.
Points to remember when researching universities_ How far away from home do you want to be?_ Are the transport links good?_ What sort of location would you like to be in? For example, a country town or large city, or close to the coast?_ What is the local environment like? Do you like the area?_ Will you need to find part-time work? Does the university offer help to find part-time work?_ What is the university’s reputation like? League tables published by national newspapers will give you an indication of teaching quality and graduate employability._ How does the course compare with similar courses at other universities?_ What are the study facilities like? For example, libraries and IT facilities._ How good are the social and sporting facilities? Does the university offer the sport or society that you want?_ Are the support services good? For example, medical and financial.You will be investing a great deal of time and money in your degree so make sure that you make an informedchoice. Of the students who drop out of higher education in their first year, the majority do so because they have chosen the wrong course or the wrong university for them, so do your homework!
Jargon BustingAdmission’s OfficeThe university department that processes applications and advises students on the suitability of their qualifications for degree courses.AlumniGraduates or former students of a university.Bachelor’s DegreeThe qualification studied towards as an undergraduate, also known as a first degree or undergraduate degree. Can be a Bachelor of Arts or BA (generally associated with humanities, arts, language and social science subjects), a Bachelor of Science or BSc (for courses inscience, technology and some business and social science subjects) a Bachelor of Engineering(BEng) or a Bachelor of Law (LLB).BursaryNon-repayable financial support for eligible students available from universities and organisations.CampusThe buildings and grounds of a university or college including teaching, shops, accommodation, sports and entertainment facilities.ClearingA period in August (after exam results are released) when late applications can be submitted.Combined/Joint HonoursA degree in which a student combines two different subjects.
Jargon BustingCRBCriminal Records Bureau – most health, social care and education courses will requirestudents to be assessed by the CRB.Deferred EntryApplication for a university place (through UCAS) more than one year before you intend to startthe course.DegreeA qualification awarded by a university after satisfactory level has been achieved.Dissertation/Research ProjectAn extended essay or report (8,000 to 12,000 words) on a specific subject area, written in thefinal year of an undergraduate honours degree course.Extended DegreeA degree that includes a one-year foundation stage leading directly to first stage of an Honoursdegree course.Faculties Subject departments in a university. Sometimes known as Academic Schools.FE (Further Education)Fe colleges run ‘A’ levels, AVCEs, GCSEs, BTECs, HNCs, HNDs, foundation degrees, accessand short courses.Foundation CourseThe course that is taken prior to degree-level study to bring students up to the required standard.
Fresher A ‘fresher’ is what a new university student is known as. A Fresher’s Week may be organised as anintroduction to university life. This can include social events, society fairs, and introductions tothe library and computer resources.Gap YearMany students take a year out between school and university, often to travel, study or work togain experience and save money for university.GraduateSomeone who has successfully completed their first degree.Halls (of residence)University-owned accommodation that students often stay in during their first year.Hons (degree with honours)This is a full undergraduate degree – usually requiring the completion of a dissertation or research project.LectureA formal presentation of ideas to a large number of students.Open DaysSome universities have subject-specific open days, where students and their families can visita university to find out more about the course they are interested in and the university.OfferAn offer of a place on a course at university – this may be a conditional offer, dependent on A level results, or an unconditional offer.
Semester/TermThe university academic year is either divided into two semesters or three terms; this is dependent on the university.SeminarMore interactive than a lecture. A group of students meet to discuss a subject with a tutor.Single HonoursAn undergraduate degree focusing on one subject area (or group of related subject areas).SU (Students’ Union)NUS (National Union of Students)This is a national organisation run for students by students. Every university has its own S Uwhich can provide advice and guidance for students on many aspects of university life including; finance, accommodation, employment and academic issues, as well as organising entertainment and social events.Tariff SystemDesigned to help students calculate whether they meet course entry requirements.UndergraduateSomeone studying for their first degree.
How to get on the Course you have decided onAll university Admissions Officers will require you to gain certain grades or tariff points in order to be admitted onto a course. Before you apply make sure that you have the right information:_ Research the course to make sure it is right for you_ Ask for help and talk to parents, your tutoror the Sixth Form Team _ Make sure your predicted grades match those asked for by the course providers_ Be realistic in your choices and include a range of courses with a range of entry requirements_ Visit the universities on Open Days to make sure that they are the right sort of place for you. No two universities are alike!_ Use your Personal Statement to promote yourself in the best possible way_ Apply early – some providers start to interview in October/November. Don’t risk missing out on a place by applying late.If you are applying for a course in Law, Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary medicine or related courses, some universities will require you to take an additional test: BMAT, UKCAT, LNAT. Always check the course entry requirements on each university’s website.
UCAS Tariff Points SystemWhat is the UCAS tariff?It’s the conversion of further education qualifications such as AS and A levels, BTECs,Diplomas etc into one points system that universities can use to evaluate applications and make conditional offers.How does it work?Each qualification and grade is worth a number of points. All grades and qualifications areadded together to give a total tariff point score.Do all universities use tariff points to make offers?No. Many universities still ask for specific grades for entry and some subjects requirequalifications in particular subjects. For example, a mathematics degree may require applicantsto have a B grade at ‘A’ level mathematics.Look on www.ucas.com/students/ucas_tarifffor a full list of the qualifications covered by theUCAS tariff, together with the allocation of points.
Completing the “Personal Details” section
Your personal information will be sent to your chosen universities and colleges
Your title, gender, name and address and date of birth will be filled in automatically with the details provided during registration. You are asked for extra information so that the universities and colleges can decide what tuition fees you should be charged and what entitlements or special requirements you might be
qualified to receive. They need to know your residential status, where/whether you will be looking for funding and/or sponsorship, and if you have any special needs or disabilities which they would need to consider. As part of their duty of care to all applicants/existing students they will also need to know if you have any relevant criminal convictions. You are asked to tick a box if you have a relevant
criminal conviction. If you do not, please leave the box blank.
Entering an email address
If you enter an email address, UCAS will require verification. You will receive an email containing instructions on what to do. They need your email address so that, once your application is processed, they can send emails alerting you to changes to the status of your application, including decisions made by your chosen colleges or universities. These emails will not list the actual changes or give any decisions; they will tell you to log in to the Track service to view any changes. Your email address will be seen by UCAS and the universities and colleges, so please make
sure that it does not cause offence. It should be business like.
A word of warning – Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites can provide admissions officers an extra view of you and your character, habits, interests etc. If these are a dubious reflection of you - check your accessibility settings. What may seem appropriate to your friends may have an adverse influence on a decision to offer you a university place!
For information on courses please check the Course Search section of the UCAS site.
Completing the “Education” section
Completing the “Statement” section of the UCAS site.Section
All course tutors find personal statements crucial when making a decision as to whether you are offered a place. In many cases, applicants are not interviewed, so this may be your only chance to make the case for you to be offered a place. Remember that the person reading your statement is an expert in your chosen area of interest so they will want to know the reasons why you have chosen the subject.
Type or paste in your statement when you have had it finally checked and approved by your tutor. THIS IS CRUCIAL AS YOU NEED IT TO BE PERFECT IN TERMS OF GRAMMAR, SPELLING AND EXPRESSION. You must remember to save your work as you go in this section. To edit it, click on Preview, and then click on Edit. You have 47 lines or 4000 characters to use (including
spaces). If you log out without saving then all will be lost! When you are happy with your statement, go to Preview, tick “section complete” and Save.
WARNING - make sure that your personal statement is your own work.
UCAS put all applications through similarity detection tests, which identify statements, or part of that have been copied from another source. Do not be tempted to copy another person's application materials, or download your personal statement from a website. There could be serious consequences to using other people's work. If any part of your personal statement appears to have been copied, UCAS will inform all the universities and colleges to which you have applied. They will then take the action they consider to be appropriate. They will also contact you by email.
The Personal Statement section is one of the most important elements of your application. It is your chance to catch the university admissions officers’ eye and the best opportunity to present yourself and stand out from the crowd. It is crucial that your statement reflects your personality, as well as showing your motivation and commitment to your chosen course. This is not the time for modesty! It could make the difference between:
· being selected for an offer or rejection
· being selected for an interview
Admissions Officers may use it:
· to ask questions at interview
· if you are a ‘borderline’ case (i.e. course requires BBB, you are predicted BBC)
· if you miss the required grade in August, AOs may be influenced by your statement, if they have spare places to offer.
The Key Points Admissions Officers are looking for in a Personal Statement:
_ enthusiasm and motivation for the subject
_ awareness of what you are applying to do
_ the potential to succeed.
If you are applying to an oversubscribed university course, and everyone applying is likely to have good grades, the personal statement is the only thing that tells you apart from other applicants, so you want to try and make yours as good as possible.
We suggest you structure your Personal Statement around the following sections:
Paragraph 1 - Writing about your choice of course
Show enthusiasm, be eye-catching different and say why you are interested and what sparked your interest? What specific topics do you enjoy? If you’re applying for more than one course, try to identify common factors. Show you have researched your chosen course.
Reason then… Explanation
Enjoy the subject …State why
Enjoy specific aspects of the subject… State which aspects
Look forward to studying in greater depth… State specific interests
Look forward to putting theory into practice… Anything in particular?
Post degree aims – particular career path… How does the course fit?
Any other reasons … Explain
Write about experiences you have had that relate to the course:
· Have you been on any study visits and attended any conferences?
· Write about any relevant books, articles, journals you have read.
· Are you a member of a relevant society?
· Have you spent time on any holiday/weekend courses or exchanges?
· Has a particular experience or event influenced your choice?
· How about holidays and hobbies – are they connected to your subject?
Paragraph 2 - Writing about following sections:work experience
This is of particular interest to the Admissions Officer if it tells him something about you i.e. was it an unusual placement, and/or does it relate to your chosen course?
Has work experience consolidated your interest? If so, state how and be specific about what you have learnt.
Mention what skills you have developed:
Communication, Listening, Speaking, Problem Solving Using initiative,
Diplomacy, Confidentiality, Team work, Working independently, Managing others, Leadership, Time management, Working to deadlines etc…
Paragraph 3 - Writing about school life
Why did you choose your subjects? Show any links between your current A levels and your intended course and career. Mention any relevant fieldwork, coursework or research you have undertaken.
What community activities have you enjoyed?
Sixth Form Rep? Sports events – Coaching? Drama performance Behind the scenes Directing/producing? Music concerts Choir/Band/Orchestra Teaching/rehearsing?
Charitable events / Fundraising Sponsorships?
Duke of Edinburgh Award?
Is there anything in particular that shows your personal qualities or personal development?
Determination, perseverance, desire for a challengeetc…
Paragraph 4 - Writing about interests and experiences outside school
Write about interests and experiences outside school if you have something of interest tosay. Talk about achievements of which you are most proud. Mention any sports you are involved in – success in competitions, county standards, club membership, position of responsibility. This will give the Admissions Officer a ‘flavour’ of you and how you are already a ‘rounded’ individual.
Paragraph 5 - Your concluding statement
This section should bring the reader’s attention back to either your choice of degree or your ability to succeed at university. It should be a summary paragraph about your strengths, dedication, what you have to offer or why they should make you an offer.
The key points in presenting an effective personal statement that fulfils what Admissions Officers are looking for are:
_ interest in the course
_ free of spelling or grammatical mistakes
_ clearly written
_ shows motivation
_ ability to balance studies with non-academic life
_ interesting person
Top Tips from the outside Admission Officers
_ Get your application in as early as possible
_ You’ll need to write several drafts of your statement in order to get it right
_ Use half the space to write about your chosen course and the other half about yourself
_ Write in a positive style, using simple words and short sentences
_ Be original but don’t try to be funny – it can appear trite and undermining
_ Be honest – you may be asked questions on your statement in an interview
_ Only use 12 point as the form is reduced in size when sent to the universities
_ Don’t rely on the spell checker. Proof read a hard copy. Ask other people to proof read for you too.
_ Make sure all the details are correct – your address, email, qualifications and course code. Errors can delay your application.
What you should avoid…..
_ Swallowing a thesaurus!
_ Statements with no examples or evidence
_ Very ordinary interests – going down the pub, watching the match
_ Making things up to sound impressive
_ Becoming somebody you are not
_ Copying other statements
_ Thinking you can write it without advice
What happens next? outside
Q. I have not heard back from all of my universities yet and it has been ages. Is there aproblem?
A. Not at all. Universities work at different speeds. Some are slower than others. If in doubt ring the admissions officer at the University and make an enquiry. They won’t mind and it will put your mind at rest. Not hearing back promptly does not mean they will not make you an offer.
Q. Brilliant! I have heard back from all of my Universities. What happens next?
A. You do nothing until you receive a letter from UCAS detailing all of the offers and asking you to make a decision about which offers to accept. If you feel you have been waiting for this for a while then give UCAS a phone call.
Q. Once I have got the letter from UCAS confirming my offers, what do I do then?
A. You need to choose the University you definitely want to go to. In the box alongside this University you write CF, you also have to choose an ‘insurance’ University and you write CI in the box alongside this. You have to reject all of the rest, so think carefully! The form explains what to do. You may have 3 or 4 weeks to make your mind up. If you haven’t already visited your choices, try and do so now. Make sure you inform UCAS of your decision by the date they give you.
Q. What do they mean by an Insurance Offer?
A. Your insurance choice is a University where the entry requirements (grades) are lower than your first choice. This is just in case your results are not as you would want them to be. If your first choice is the lowest offer you do not need to make an insurance choice. Make sure your insurance choice is a University you are happy to study at.
Q. What do I do about accommodation?
A. You do not have to anything at this stage. Once you have accepted an offer then the University of your choice will be in touch with you. Do not expect things to happen too quickly. If in doubt, just phone your chosen University.
Q. I have changed my mind about the whole thing and wish I had not applied. Whatshould I do?
A. You can withdraw by phoning UCAS. Also, if you do not make a decision on a first and insurance choice of university by the given date (stated in your letter), UCAS will assume you have declined all your offers. But, we would advise you to follow your application through as if you hadn’t changed your mind. It is easy to pull out but difficult to apply again. Better to withdraw your application at the end of year in case you change your mind again.
Q. What if I do not get the results for my first or insurance choice University?
First of all, think positively! The Sixth Form Team will be available on Results Day and will make sure that you have all the information, advice and guidance that you need. There is a system called Clearing, which we will explain to you.